DOE A to Z: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #

January 15, 2004


Chief School Administrators
Charter School Leaders


Jay Doolan, Director
Office of Academic Standards
Eunice Y. Couselo, Director
Office of Specialized Populations


ESL Certification and the Highly Qualified Teacher Initiative

The purpose of this memorandum is to clarify issues regarding the Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT) Requirement of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, as it relates to English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers. A number of questions have been raised which require guidance beyond what is provided in the frequently asked questions posted on the department website at

The following questions and answers provide guidance regarding the Highly Qualified Teacher status of high school ESL teachers. For further information, please e-mail your questions to

  1. Must an ESL certified teacher be certified in English Language Arts Literacy (LAL) at the secondary level in order for students to receive credit toward graduation for English classes taken with the ESL instructor?

No. Teachers who are certified as ESL teachers possess the appropriate knowledge by virtue of their preparation and certification as ESL teachers to support the language arts learning needs of ELL students. It is entirely appropriate for ELL students who are receiving language arts literacy instruction from certified ESL teachers to receive English Language Arts Literacy credit toward graduation for that coursework. There are content standards in ESL that are aligned to the state’s core curriculum content standards in Language Arts Literacy (LAL) and that are currently undergoing revision to align with the newly revised Language Arts Literacy (LAL) standards. ESL classes are the most appropriate English Language Arts Literacy instruction for ELL students. Credit should be awarded for these "English" classes as for others.

  1. Must an ESL certified teacher be certified in English Language Arts Literacy (LAL) in order to be considered a Highly Qualified Teacher ?

  2. No. In order to be considered highly qualified, an ESL teacher must have at least a bachelor’s degree, a standard certificate as an ESL teacher and must demonstrate content area expertise in ESL. Since there is no state test for ESL certification, teachers working at the middle/secondary level generally meet this third element by having either an undergraduate major in ESL (ESL, EFL, Linguistics and English are all considered appropriate majors), 30 credits equivalent to a major or a graduate degree in the content (ESL, EFL, Linguistics or English). ESL teachers who are providing direct instruction in English, language arts or reading to students at the elementary level also qualify as ESL teachers. ESL teachers who provide direct instruction in other core academic content areas (i.e., math, science, social studies) to elementary students must either hold certification as an elementary teacher or satisfy the highly qualified teacher requirement for an elementary generalist. This means either passing the Praxis II Elementary Content Knowledge test or, for veteran teachers, accruing ten points on the NJ HOUSE Standard Content Knowledge Matrix. It is important to note that only ESL teachers who are providing direct instruction in core academic content are required to satisfy the definition of a highly qualified teacher. ESL teachers who provide consultation and support exclusively and are never a child’s only teacher of an academic content area are exempt from meeting the requirement.

    EYC/JD/RS/bm/g/ESL Certification and the Highly Qualified Teacher Initiative


Members, State Board of Education
Dwight Pfennig
Gloria Hancock
Isaac R. Bryant
Albert Monillas
J. Michael Rush
Judith Weiss
Richard Ten Eyck
Jon Zlock
Rochelle Hendericks
County Superintendent